Helldivers 2 queerphobia; a screenshot of my gameplay in Helldivers 2 showing a desert planet and rocky landscape.
a screenshot of my gameplay in Helldivers 2 showing a desert planet and rocky landscape.

Helldivers 2 is incredible. There are no two ways about that; it is the perfect blend of epic, chaotic, frenzied insanity and cool, calm and collected tactical thinking. All set across gorgeous landscapes with absolutely beautiful lighting effects. But we have to talk about the Helldivers 2 queerphobia problem.

I am racking up the playtime in Helldivers 2 after I was gifted it (thank you) and having so much fun. It has been a long time since I have played a game like this which has me on the edge of my seat for 90% of a 40 minute mission. But as an incredibly and often outrageously queer person, and in the middle of Pride month no less, I can’t help but notice all the Helldivers 2 queerphobia.

I’m not just speaking about in-universe either, but we’ll get to that later. The real big issue with Helldivers 2 queerphobia is in the community online. Reddit posts like this one talk about receiving transphobic abuse in-game. Comments on the post also devolve into queerphobic abuse. Helldivers 2’s Discord mods can be seen telling trans people to “drop the convo” for mentioning they are trans. Articles like this one further outline the problem.

And I hate to say it, but I’ve experienced some of this personally. In games I’ve had random people join my team only to start saying transphobic things on the microphone – I’m not visibly trans or queer in game in any way. I also found myself muted in the official Helldivers 2 discord after I suggested a Helldivers 2 themed Pride event, Super Pride, could be fun – and bigots got upset.

A moderator tried to justify this after the fact in private by suggesting I was trolling bigots (I was – but my mere existences trolls them so y’know) but the point is that you shouldn’t have so many god damn bigots happily chatting away in your discord lads. Ironic that the bigots said queer people are being pandered to and yet I’m the only one who ended up muted! Appropros of nothing; check out the alt-right playbook on YouTube.

We do this dance every single time there’s queer representation in video games of any kind. Remember the release of Starfield and all of the joy that brought us with bigots frothing over the inclusion of pronouns. Even right now as I type the Call of Duty Pride event has bigots on Twitter losing their crap over queer people; some are even threatening violence.

As I mentioned in a previous article; queer invisibility in video games might seem like a small issue to straight cisgender people who aren’t made to feel invisible for who they are. But we currently live in a world that is attacking LGBTQIA+ people, especially transgender people, on all fronts. Healthcare and rights are being rolled back and those in cooperation with literal actual sieg heiling Nazis are being given all the space in the world to come after us – facts which seem to have sailed on by bigots in the Helldivers 2 community.

But how could they know when most forms of media, video games included, work to uphold this line of queer erasure? We aren’t in your video games. We aren’t in your movies. We aren’t in your TV shows. We aren’t on your radios. We aren’t in your newspapers, magazines or really anywhere else. It is only in the last 10-15 years or so that games have really had any queer representation and as this GLAAD report shows it is still vastly not enough.

This line of queer invisibility, sadly, doesn’t just exist in the Helldivers 2 community. It’s also, at time of writing, in-game too. There is no option to make your character visibly queer and no trailers, cinematics or other content from the in-game universe has in any way worked to include the existence of queer people. Now if they had done this intentionally to further the satire of the universe they are building it could be really funny.

But I don’t think they did. I just think they didn’t include us because they don’t want to upset bigots.

The Helldivers 2 queerphobia problem is a symptom of the much larger problems of queerphobia in society. One which, in my opinion, is being handled extremely poorly currently. I don’t believe they have any ill-will towards our community, they are trying to please everyone and haven’t yet worked out that this approach comes at the expense of my community who face abuse, harassment and consequences for our queerness; while they coddle bigots.

I really hope they figure it out soon, implement a Pride event of some kind, and make it clear to the bigots that they are not welcome on Super Earth because as it stands the Helldivers 2 queer liberation campaign is failing and the fascists are winning – not because queers haven’t fought hard enough, but because those with power are actively tipping the scales in the bigots favour.

There is no “neither” option here. You either make the game hell for the bigots or by default it becomes hell for queer people. Pick one and let me know before I or anyone else I love spends any more money or time on your game.